Recently I had a revelation in a conversation with a client, the rare type–that actually want to pay you for your services—about the key to creating a long-lasting business model. The client had requested a small change, rather than nickel and dime-ing her to death I made the change, just a few seconds of my time, and let her know that this would be "on-the-house".
As I mentioned this client is a rarity, and after thinking me laughingly replied that, " I'd never get rich this way". Keeping up with the banter, I returned, " no, but this way I have loyal clients."
The conversation stuck out to me, as I realized that it really has been a key to my success. Over 95% of clients that use me once, return to use me again. I truly think that this loyalty rate is a direct result of the way I conduct my business.
Before I go any farther, don't get me wrong. If you do a project you deserve to get paid. But any extras that you can throw in, or any time you can show a client favor, you may not realize that you're really helping yourself. That client is now going to be much more likely to use you again in the future, not to mention referring you to their friends.
Here are some of the things that I try to do, again not to use the client, but to create a positive work environment--as a result the pros for me do include customer loyalty.
1. Get to know them. Whether it's through social media, telephone conversations, or strictly emails, make an effort to really get to know your clients. I think the best book about truly developing good people skills is "How to Win Friends And Influence People" I try to re-read this at least once a year. If you've never read it---get it!
2. Be willing to go the extra mile. If you're afraid of a little hard work, then you're already in the wrong business and especially if you're owning your own business or working freelance. Let's face it, to be successful you're going to have to be willing to work hard. And the more you do, the more you will find those emails that start with "just one more thing . . ." begin to happen. But you'll also find, that the clients you do "just one more thing . . . " for will come back for a new project later.
3. Show Appreciation. After completing large projects or when working with special clients that have really been great to work with in a pinch, we are quick to send a hand-written thank you note, a discount coupon, or even a fruit or gift basket depending on the situation-- just to say THANKS for being a good client.
4. Don't forget the Holidays. Many businesses will send out Christmas cards or holiday emails, but we also take that a step farther. Included in a our Christmas cards is a special gift. Nothing big, but another opportunity to say "THANK YOU". One year, we sent out copies of my book, "Market Yourself: A Beginners Guide to Social Media" another year, a calendar highlighting work from every client. Whatever the gift, it's a great way to stay connected to your client.
Whatever you do while working with your clients, be sure to keep your attitude one of sincerity and thankfulness. The client will pick it up and you'll be glad you did.
People ask me what the best part about being a designer/marketer/wearer-of-all-hats is—normally I stare at them blankly through a lack of sleep and coffee induced haze—however, when I do have time to formulate a response it’s generally this: the profession is always learning and as a professional I am always learning.
That’s it in a nutshell. Regardless of how long you’ve been designing, how many products you have successfully marketed, ultimately, you will never get to stop learning. So, if you’ve never liked school, bow out now. But, if you love a good challenge and like pushing the envelope, you’re in the right place.
If there is anything that bonds designers, writers, programmers and other freelance careers together, it’s the “C” word. CLIENTS. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. We’ve all had them. They come in varying degrees of trouble or joy, but ultimately when we are dealing with others, we’re always in for some surprises along the way.
Can we do anything about it? Short of moving to a deserted island I don’t think so. But, the thing that we can do is watch for the warning signs during meetings and along the path of a project.
The other day, over lunch a designer friend and I were swapping stories. Before we knew it we had developed a “Quiz” for clients. No, this is not something I’d really give a client, but I can attest that ever question on this “quiz” is based from a real life client experience. Things that are hard to believe, but true.
The good news is, for all the bad clients out there, there are also great clients out there. Just for grins, join me now for “The Client Quiz”.
Recently I was in a seminar setting where the speaker made the following statement, "you have to choose between a designer that is creative and one that makes their deadlines". I'll be honest, that statement made my blood boil.
For starters I see this condition, what I call, "artist entitlement" among creatives in every field. Basically, it's used primarily as an excuse to miss deadlines, have temper tantrums or otherwise behave unprofessionally. It saddens me that so many creatives behave this way that colleagues mention it in their seminars.
Call it what you will but without it you're not likely to see success. Is it a decision? An attitude? Or just a natural drive to dig your heels in? Whatever it is you will need it. Don't worry, if you aren't naturally bull-headed you can work to develop that. In your professional life, at least.
Why is this determination so important for a designer? While design may seem like a glorious profession to most, those of us that have done it for a while know the truth. Design may actually be one of the hardest professions around. Why?? Regardless of your success as a designer you will face rejection. In fact, the bigger you get and the more clients you have the more rejection you will be subject to professionally.
So the question here is when the water starts to boil will you jump out of the pot? Think about that for a moment. The more successful you become the harder things get. The more people you are wiring with. I've often geared that designing would be great if it wasn't for the clients. Sometimes you will feel that way. And that's ok. But what are you going to do about it?
There are some telltale signs from clients that will clue you in that rejection is coming. Statements like:
"Well, don't take this the wrong way . . . "
"Let me tell you what I envisioned. . . ."
"It just doesn't feel right to me"
The list could go on and on. Do you quit? Do you hang up? Not if you have theses qualities we've discussed.